Anatomy Of An Elite Customer Success Engineer

Ben Price

What makes a good customer success engineer?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself again and again lately. We’ve seen the demand for talented individuals to fill the role of a customer success engineer increase dramatically, particularly over the last few years. Despite this, too few organizations have a clear, concise idea of the attributes a customer success engineer should have to drive both innovation and success.

While most of us have a fairly solid take on what to look for when hiring a salesperson, identifying someone with the attributes to be an elite customer success engineer is a completely different thing.

Over the last two years, I have hired more than 100 customer success specialists across the APJ region, and through that process, I have formulated some key learnings to share:

  • When interviewing a potential customer success engineer, it is vital to establish that the candidate is reliable and has the implicit good faith of those they have interacted with previously. Try to get a sense of the general customer feedback they have received, along with any customer success stories they have earned. Ask if they can verify this trust. Anyone can claim to be trustworthy, but can they prove it? Be bold – ask which of their customers would take your call immediately, without hesitation, and gauge their reactions. Assess whether these customers would corroborate that this is the right person to drive your organization’s success.
  • Observe the impact the candidate has had over their career to assess how that impact will carry over into your organization. The best way to do this is to carefully analyze the stories they tell about their professional lives. Listen to the words they use, and try to understand whether their success stories are the result of their own actions or those of their team.
  • Calibrate an appropriate metric to measure their success. When I interview a candidate, I always ask what their KPIs currently are, and what they think their KPIs should be. The variance of answers never fails to amaze me. (A candidate once told me that one of their KPIs would be to drive over-usage to generate more revenue for the company – not exactly the sort of behavior I’d expect from someone working in my team.)
  • Last, but certainly not least, look for individuals who are capable of showing emotion and empathy in equal measure. In the nuanced world of a customer success engineer, it is not enough to merely be traditionally intelligent. An elite customer success engineer should also possess a great degree of emotional intelligence and be able to observe the subtle idiosyncrasies of a client’s requirements. They should have the ability to relate to customers and make decisions accordingly.

I sincerely hope that my insights help your search in some small measure. I’d love to hear your views, so feel free to leave a comment or message me directly.

For more on customer success strategies, see Customer Success Stories: What They’re All About.

Ben Price

About Ben Price

Ben Price is Chief Customer Officer for SAP Asia Pacific Japan. Ben is responsible for the charter of ‘Customer’ where he leads in the areas of customer engagement, solution adoption and solution outcomes across the region. Prior to current role, Ben was Vice President, SAP APJ Adoption and Renewals where he focused on customer adoption and renewals in both the private and public cloud areas across SAP’s 25 industries and 12 Lines-of-Business. During that time, Ben has been involved with various SAP Cloud and on premise teams to drive customer success in terms of onboarding, value realization, community development and strategy management.